Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Did Someone Say Two Half Marathons In One Weekend? Yes Please!

Double the bibs and double the hardware.

I'm the kind of person who likes to set running goals in order to keep herself motivated and focused. I register for races early, tell the world my plans so that I have to hold myself accountable, and then I start training (posting on social media every step of the way). When that race is over, I set a new goal and repeat the process.

Don't get me wrong, I really enjoy running, a lot, but a runner is lying if they tell you that they have never been in a running rut. To keep things fresh, I like to set what I call a "big" race goal for myself each year. A few years ago I decided to run a half marathon. Last year I decided to run my first full marathon. This year I went "half" crazy and decided to run two half marathons- in ONE weekend! Yes, I accepted and completed the I-35 Challenge by running two races that are literally located in cities along Interstate 35, during the same weekend. It was a few days ago and it was just as amazing as it sounds.

For the last four months I have been training for this challenge the best I could. I searched and searched online, talked to some runners I know, but couldn't find a true "Two Halfs In One Weekend" training plan anywhere. After thinking about how I run and what it would take for me to be prepared to run back-to-back halfs, I came up with a training plan. I am proud to say that I came close to following it almost exactly, and it worked well in helping me to be prepared physically and mentally for the challenge. I felt totally ready.

Basically I ran about 25-35 miles per week varying the length of the runs from 5 to 8 miles most of the time. For the last several months (prior to this last month) I also ran two back-to-back longer-ish runs every other weekend, like two 8s, 9s, 10s or 11s. And then this last month I ran a few 8s and 10s, but focused more on shorter, much faster runs, as I really wanted to PR my first of the two races. I wasn't sure how sore I would be after running my heart out trying to PR, so my goal for the second half marathon was to just finish respectably.

The smile of a new PR!

The first of the two races was the Waddell & Reed Kansas City Marathon, half marathon option.  My husband ran with me, it was his very first race ever- let alone his first half marathon! He is naturally faster than me so I knew he would push me and help me PR. We figured that we had to get about 8:45 average pace for me to PR. We actually blew that out of the water with an 8:35 pace, and finished in 1:52.22. My previous best was 1:55.49 back in the 2014; so I ended up shaving almost 3 1/2 minutes off my previous best. I was stoked!

After the dust settled we showered, we picked up the kiddos from my sister's house, drove along I-35 to Des Moines, picked up my IMT DMM race packet at the Iowa Events Center, checked into the hotel and got ready for round two the next morning.

As the day wound down and the evening rolled in, several factors started to make me second guess my decision to run another half the next day. I started to get a horrendous cold and sore throat with a fever, aches and chills. I couldn't sleep because I was nervous my alarm wouldn't go off and I was sharing a bed with several kiddos- one of which was a 3-year-old that insisted on kicking me in the head all night. My cortisone shot from my torn rotator cuff (surgery planned for this December, yuck) still hadn't kicked in, and after running as fast as I could earlier in the day, my shoulder hurt- a lot. And to top it all off, I weirdly locked us out of our hotel room with my race gear inside earlier in the day and it took several hotel staff and a bent hanger to get us back in the room. Oh and how could I forget that it was only 30 degrees outside on the morning of the race? Icing on the cake was how sore my body was when I woke up from after the Kansas City marathon the day before. My legs literally felt like tree trunks.

It never crossed my mind NOT to do the challenge, but I definitely dreaded getting up that morning. This was the very first time I had ever woken up race morning not super pumped to run. Before the race started, standing out in the freezing temps with aches and chills, legs and feet screaming with soreness, I definitely didn't feel much excitement. But that did change, as my inspiration to stay on course was my little brother. He had agreed to run the IMT DMM leg of the I-35 Challenge with me, even though he had never run a race of any distance before.

When I looked over at my brother at the starting line, standing beside me, chatting with complete strangers, laughing, cracking jokes, jumping around to keep warm, things started to change for me. He was just the most excited I had seen him in, well, maybe ever. THAT changed something in my mind. I decided not to worry about my pace, the distance, my aches... I decided to just run with him. He was so very excited just to be running his very first race, ever, and I remember that wonderful feeling.

After a few miles I no longer noticed the aches and pains or the freezing cold; I only noticed how awesome it was to run and cheer my brother on along the route. Honestly, I lost track of the miles most of the time and just ran. I didn't worry about anything- I just ran.

I ended up having so much fun and getting so much enjoyment out of it.

Both races complete!

Eventually, we got to the end. And I DID IT! I ran TWO HALF MARATHONS IN ONE WEEKEND! It was incredible. I am so glad I did it. What an accomplishment!

You know what? We did pretty good too. I still finished in the top 25% of all women with our 2:06 time. Not too shabby for the girl always picked last in gym class.

Since training, Tweeting and blogging for the IMT DMM blog, I have met many runners online that were doing the I-35 Challenge too. Some ran one full and one half, some ran two halfs like me, and some "full" crazy ones even ran two fulls in one weekend.

I have to say that I am inspired.

I think.. I think... that I could challenge myself to run even more next year. I mean, I ran my two halfs this weekend with a torn rotator cuff and a really awful cold, sore throat and cough- among other obstacles... just think of what else I can do?!

I am sensing a new goal for 2016 coming on... :)

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

IMT DMM Recap: A Chilly Start to an Incredible Finish

My lil brother and I before the chilly start Sunday.

This past weekend my hard work over the last several months came to fruition when I crossed the finish line of the IMT DMM half marathon. Last year I completed the full marathon in Des Moines and immediately knew that I wanted to come back again. This year, however, the IMT DMM half marathon was my goal, as it was the second half marathon I ran this weekend. Yep, that's right: two halfs in one weekend. Finishing the IMT DMM half meant that I completed the I-35 Challenge by running the Waddell & Reed Kansas City half marathon on Saturday and the IMT DMM half marathon on Sunday.

Around mile 9.

This year I took a different approach to the race. Since I had planned to PR on Saturday in Kansas City during that half (which I did, 1:52:22, IN THE TOP 8% OF ALL WOMEN! Yay!), I decided that I just wanted to more leisurely run on Sunday and serve as a support system for my brother who ran with me, to complete his very first half marathon. I am so glad I kept with my plan because it felt absolutely amazing to cheer my brother on, push him forward and support him as he ran his first half.

I will admit that this was difficult initially. I had never run a half without the goal of running my fastest and pushing myself as hard as I could, so the first few miles I kept finding myself running too fast too early on for our collective pace, and I was automatically setting my brain to competition mode. Around mile 4 or 5 my lil bro started to need some pacing adjustments and moral support so I quickly switched gears and put on my cheerleading shoes. After I let him set our pace I started to actually enjoy myself more than I thought possible (while running a distance race, that is!).

This was only my second time at the event, but once again the IMT DMM did not disappoint. The route for the half quickly split from the full marathoners and took us to what would be the end of the full marathon route. I absolutely loved this because I could reminisce over memories I had had at different mile markers from last year. I remembered the place around mile 19 that I saw my family and children cheering me on. In fact, my brother came to cheer me on last year and that is what had inspired him to run this year.

I saw the spot, near mile 22, when I hit a serious wall but then had seen my favorite sign, "For all the girls picked last in gym class" and I recalled how those words got me through the slump. I remember that long bridge around mile 23 or 24 and how I cried like a little baby while on it, thinking about how I had almost finished a marathon, something I trained so hard for last year. I saw mile 25 where my husband had been standing while he had cheered his loudest to help me push through that last difficult mile...

I have chills and tears of nostalgia just thinking about it.

I love the IMT DMM for so many reasons (and it's not only because they always have the coolest participant shirts!). First and foremost, Iowa has the best people. Just like last year, the spectators and volunteers were once again amazing. I love the route because you are closer to the spectators than in other races I've done so they can give you high fives, tissues, power poster punches, and can read your name on your bib and cheer you on personally. This is definitely the most supportive group of strangers I have ever experienced in a race.

Oh and I love the race route; you travel through both urban and rural areas and other than a few small hills early on, it is a pretty flat route (I know, I know, it's Iowa, right?). I joked above, but I do love the shirts too. If you are a runner, you probably have several race shirts sitting around your house that don't get much use. The IMT DMM tech long-sleeved shirt will not be one of those. I LOVED my shirt last year and was so pumped to get the same style in a different color this year. As far as participant shirts go, they are really, really nice.

I also wanted to say how wonderful the expo at the Iowa Events Center is and how plentiful the race packets are. So many races don't actually put anything in your race packets anymore- but not the IMT DMM! Mine was overflowing with goodies and samples of lotions, vitamins, snacks, discounts, and more... and that's just the actual race packet. There was a virtual race packet, full of great deals and discounts, emailed out to us too.

The medals are just fine. Heavy and solid with large colorful neck straps, but they probably aren't the reason you run this race. But EVERYTHING else is. Even the food after the race is awesome. In addition to all the free food and drinks for the athletes, Jimmy Johns was walking around giving out free subs to spectators! As a mom with three young kiddos there cheering her on, free food was a nice distraction for them.

Just before the finish line.

So if you are wondering how we did... Not bad! My brother and I finished at the exact same time and it felt amazing to cross the finish line with him, knowing just how hard he had pushed himself those last 3 miles to get there. We finished in 2:06.14 (9:39 pace) which was very respectable for my brother's very first half marathon. Our overall place was 2067 of 5380 all half marathoners. Even though I wasn't concerned about placing or my finish results this time, I did place 183/487, or still in the top 25% for my division (age 30-34). All in all we did a great job!

MapMyRun Splits

We did it!

So the big question is... Will I run it again next year? I'd definitely like too! I am even, and I might regret typing this out loud, considering accepting the I-35 challenge again next year... but possibly running both full marathons???? Yikes, I don't know. That is a lot of training and a lot of dedication, so I will have to get back to you on that one. I was just so surprised by how much fun running two halfs in one weekend was... Not sure if I'd feel that way after two fulls though...

Our amazing support team!

There are a few Thank You's that need to go out. My husband, who not only ran the Waddell and Reed Half with me and is the reason I PR's on Saturday, but who then hauled our kids to Iowa that same afternoon (when he probably would have preferred an ice bath) and helped me get ready for my race the next day. My sister and her family, my parents and my brother and his girlfriend too. It is truly incredible to look at these pictures and see how many people came to cheer us on.

I also have some pretty supportive fans on Facebook and friends in my life that inspire and motivate me to run, and to write about my running on Mamagottarun.

A final thank you to the IMT DMM blog for allowing me to post training updates these last three months, and for helping me to connect with so many fellow Iowa, Kansas, KC and I-35 Challenge runners on Twitter. It was awesome talking with some of you in person and even more of you online these last few months!

What a fun weekend. I'm a little sad it's over, but that only means that it's time to start planning for my next running adventure.

Here's to next year- who's with me? Comment below!

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

The I-35 Challenge Is Just a Few Days Away!

I am getting so pumped for this weekend! It's finally here! This Saturday and Sunday I am completing the I-35 Challenge, by running one half marathon (13.1 miles) on both days (26.2) total. I have run a marathon before, but I think it will be a different experience running two significant distances on back-to-back days.

I was so lucky to have the support of friends and family as I worked to accomplish this goal. Not only has my husband, Josh, watched the kids while I trained, but I have watched the kids for him as he trained too... Yes that's right! He will be running the Kansas City half marathon leg of the I-35 Challenge on Saturday morning with me. I am so proud of him- this is his first half marathon and he has worked so hard to get his practice runs in. He has improved his pace, his endurance, and he is ready to go.

I am also proud of my brother, Nick, who will be running the Des Moines leg of the I-35 Challenge with me the following day, on Sunday. This is his first half marathon. He has been battling injury and has a busy travel/work schedule but has continued to push through and train and he feels ready and is confident he will finish. 

It is exciting to think that I will be running alongside family when I run these races. Normally I run alone in races. Other than the few times when my husband and I have been kid-free for a day or two and run a few casual miles around the neighborhood I have never run with him. And I have never run with my brother before at all. I am excited to feel the encouragement from them and the accomplishment of doing this together. I am a little nervous because I feel like both of these guys are faster than me and I hope it doesn't throw off my pacing. Hopefully it will be a motivator to keep pushing so I can PR on Saturday. My goal is to average 8:40s on Saturday and 9:00 is fine for Sunday.

Well, wish me luck! If you want to follow me while I run (or anyone else you know who is running in either of these races) you can do so at: 

I can't speak for the KC marathon/half marathon, but when I ran the IMT DMM last year it was incredible. The beautiful route, the amazingly supportive spectators, the energy... I knew immediately afterward the IMT DMM event would be something I would run again. This time I am running the half, but I anticipate just as much enjoyment.

Wish me luck! Connect with me on Twitter @mamagottarun so we can say hello!

I'd love to hear what you loved most about your previous half and full marathons. The spectators? A memorable sign? A route? A race packet goodie? Comment below.

Crossing the IMT DMM
finish line last year.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Less Than Two Weeks To Go!

How's your last few weeks of training going? Tapering your longer runs? Working on quickening your pace during shorter runs? Those two techniques have been my main focal points this last week and my plan for the last few.

From when I started training nine weeks ago I have knocked about a full minute off of my pace during 4-5 miles runs. I am running in the low to mid 8:00s right now (even hitting the upper 7:00s a few times!), but started in the low to mid 9:00s in June.

My goal is to PR one of the I-35 Challenge halfs, which would mean I need to keep my splits at about 8:40-:44 minute average each. I really feel like I am on track to beat my current fastest half time of about 1:55. I guess only time will tell.

I am glad the weather has gotten a little cooler in Kansas City this week and it should stay that way for the next few weeks here. I imagine Iowa weather is cooling off as well. I remember feeling quite chilled at the start of the IMT DMM last year and running in the cold these last few weeks before should help that not be an issue again this year. You Iowa folks have weather that is just a shade cooler than us in KC, even though we are only three hours to the south of you.

What are your race goals for the IMT DMM or the I-35 Challenge? How are your last few weeks of training going? I'd love to hear about it. Comment below! Don't forget to follow me on Twitter @mamagottarun so we can connect and say hello in Des Moines in a few weeks!

Happy training!

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

A Preview of the IMT Des Moines Marathon

Thank you to our Presenting Sponsor Mediacom for including the IMT Des Moines Marathon in their Newsleaders segment.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Preparing for Race Day

There is more to preparing to run in a half or full marathon than, well, running. So much additional work goes into preparing yourself for the event than the running itself.

Of course you will have followed some sort of training regimen, and should be confident with the miles you've pounded into the pavement in preparation for the big day. This is important not only for your body, but also to get your mind strong enough to push you through the difficult later miles. You might have even done strength training to get your body ready, and that's great! Both of those will prove helpful.

But you can't forget the checklist: the valuable list of tasks to complete before, or items to bring with you on, event weekend.

 Logistics are crucial. Make sure your hotel is booked and confirmed well before race weekend. Keep an eye on the weather a week before. Know how you are getting to the event on the morning of the race. Are you driving yourself? With a friend? Being dropped off?
 Know packet pick-up location, times and rules. Will there be parking costs and where are parking lots located (this is good to know both for packet pick-up and for race day)?
 Study the race route. Write bathroom, water and food stops in permanent marker on your arm the night before, on your water bottle, or on a laminated scrap of paper you can carry with you in your running gear.
 Make sure your cheering section is prepared with items they will need, like race routes with your estimated arrival times for every spectator spot, road maps or GPS, any signs or cowbells they will be displaying, and snacks and distractions for the younger spectators. Make sure your cheering section also knows what you will need from them during the race, like energy gel packets or water refills at certain mile markers. Make a plan of where you will meet at the finish line.
 Plan your meals for at least three days before the race. Research good foods for pre-race preparation and listen to your body. Avoid too many sugars, fiber and anything else that has the potential to increase your chances of gastrointestinal issues during the race.
Drink a lot of water every single day for the entire week before the event. A good daily intake rule is for every pound you weigh, drink an ounce of water- so if you weigh 142 pounds, try to drink 142 ounces of pure water daily. Don't worry about planning for food or beverages after the race, there will be a ton of free food and drink for you to devour at the finish line.
 Make sure the running clothes, socks and shoes you plan to wear on race day have been worn before. This is the absolute worst time to wear brand new running clothes, even if they are adorable. Run in what you know works for you. The last thing you need is chafing nipples and thighs, or new blisters at mile 5 of your event.
 Know what you will be carrying with you while you run. Water? Energy gels? Baby wipes? Kleenexes? Vaseline? Headphones or arm band? Phone? Headband or hat? RoadID tag? KT tape? How will you carry these things? If you can, do a long practice run carrying and/or using these items.
 Buy a new audiobook, update your playlist, or get your podcasts downloaded the night before the event. Race morning will be busy enough- you don't want to worry about getting your music ready just before the the gun goes off.
 Lay out everything you will need the night before, from what you will eat for breakfast, to every item of clothing you will be wearing. You will be anxious, excited and nervous the morning of the event and being prepared will help calm your adrenaline rush.

This list covers most of everything you will need to remember, but be sure to tailor it to your own specific needs. There is much to consider when preparing for the race, but you want the big day to go perfectly. You have literally run hundreds and hundreds of miles during training to get to the point of being able to prepare your body and mind to run a half or full marathon and you don't want a little forgotten detail to get in the way of your success.

Good luck!

Miles are great, but getting the logistics
figured out are just as important.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Jon Dunham to Appear at MidAmerican Energy Speaker Series

Spirit of the Marathon filmmaker to preview new movie
at IMT Des Moines Marathon

Des Moines, Iowa—Jon Dunham, the award-winning director of Spirit of the Marathon and Spirit of the Marathon II,  will preview his new documentary Boston at this year’s IMT Des Moines Marathon.

Even before Spirit of the Marathon was released in 2007, Dunham was hoping to make a movie about the Boston Marathon. “Then the 2013 Boston race turned out completely different from anything we ever imagined,” he says. “My personal reaction after the bombing was to put the project on hold, to give the race time to heal and normalize. But then I began to realize what an important race 2014 would be, how important a race it would be to document.” Organizers agreed and endorsed the project as the official film of the race.

Both of Dunham’s earlier films will be screened at the Scheels Sports & Fitness Expo on October 17 at the Iowa Hall of Pride in the Iowa Events Center. Spirt of the Marathon will be shown at 11 a.m. followed by Spirit of the Marathon ll at 2 p.m. Jon will introduce each film and provide a unique opportunity for audience question and answer following the films. In addition, Dunham will offer previews of Boston, which is nearing the end of filming, as part of the MidAmerican Energy Speaker Series on October 16 and 17.

“We’re excited to welcome Jon back to our event and to show our community a first look at Boston,” IMT Des Moines Marathon race director Chris Burch said. “He’s an accomplished filmmaker who captures our sport in a way no one else can. It is a true privilege to host him in Des Moines for our running community.”

The Scheels Sports & Fitness Expo and the MidAmerican Energy Speaker Series at Hy-Vee Hall in Des Moines are free and open to the public. For details and a complete race weekend schedule, or to register, go to